Residents of a small town in the middle of the North Dakota oil patch say they’re sick of semitrailers barreling past their homes and want the state to do something about it.
Arlene Isaak, 87, and other residents in Arnegard, a town of fewer than 200 people located along U.S. Highway 85 in the northwestern part of the state, are carrying petition sheets imploring transportation officials to make the road safer. The road is being expanded from two to four lanes.
“I’m going to get killed out there,” Isaak told the Bismarck Tribune “It’s suicide.”
Resident Nicki Haivala said she’s already had a semitrailer come careening into her front yard from the highway. She was awakened by what she said sounded like an explosion. It was the sound of a semi tire blowing up.
“It is happened once – it can happen again,” she said.
Haivala said a new highway stake has been pounded into the ground 4 feet from an occupied bunkhouse on their property.
Paula Slow lives across the highway from Haivala where the white historic Stenehjem barn has stood for decades. She said she’s seen a semitrailer with tires smoking in her rear view mirror as it tried to slow to 45 mph and avoid hitting her.
Slow said particularly worried about gas station pumps at a station along the highway and how close they’ll be to traffic when the road is widened.
The petition asks the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit from 45 to 25 mph through town. It also seeks amber flashing lights and a digital speed display at both ends of town, as well as highway lighting.
“We have to do something,” Isaak said.
Transportation officials said they will evaluate the petition when it’s ready and will likely conduct a new speed study. In the meantime, officials say the new road will have turning lanes and provide safer on and off access. It will also allow for better speed limit enforcement because the wide shoulders will give troopers a place to pull over offenders.
“You will be pleasantly surprised at how well the highway operates once the project is completed,” said Grant Levi, state Department of Transportation director.